England are on the verge of adding an important page to its sporting history when they take on Italy in the European soccer final in Wembley Stadium. Ninety crucial minutes on Sunday night (or technically Monday early morning) will decide whether the land which gave birth to football will lift the European Cup or not. After a long gap of 55 years, England fans are hoping that the home side will once again register a big international triumph.
But Italy stand in between England and the title. But I feel England should be favourites to emerge champions as they are playing before a vociferous home crowd. That is a big advantage. England are also on a roll in this tournament. They have the form and confidence while going into the final. It has a solid defence handled by the confident trio of Maguire, Shaw and Stones. They have an excellent goalkeeper in Jordan Pickford. There is a lot of energy when Jadon Sancho, Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford or Jack Grealish are on the pitch.
As my friend Emeka Ezeugo, who played for Nigeria in the World Cup, says that England’s best goal scoring chances will come from set piece situations like free kicks and corners. The return to form by captain Harry Kane is the big plus point for England. Then there is Raheem Sterling, who combines in himself the gifts of a superb playmaker and an opportunistic goal scorer. He has been scoring consistently in this tournament.
On the other hand, Italy’s best chances lie in counter attacks in which they are unbelievably fast and unmatchable. The unfortunate injury to Leonardo Spinazzola may have upset Italy’s plans and in his absence Emerson Palmieri has to do the job.
Italy’s threesome – Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Immobile and Frederico Chiesa – are dangerous up front. But if England can cut off the supply line to these three men, then Italy’s attack can be choked successfully. Chiesa of Juventus, who is brilliant at dribbling and distributing, will need some very close marking from England.
(Victor Amalraj is a former Indian captain and also led the famous Kolkata clubs Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting)
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